Travel Warnings and Advisories
These days, you're probably not planning a trip to Iraq or
Afghanistan -- the United States and other developed nations are currently
advising citizens against all non-essential travel to these countries. But a
government travel warning doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad idea to plan
a trip to a particular part of the world. In fact, the governments of the U.S.,
Canada or the U.K. have also released warnings about the following countries:
Thailand, Mexico, China, India and the United States.
All of these are popular tourist destinations (if not home!). But before you
decide to avoid these countries altogether -- or to move to Canada -- it's worth
taking a closer look at what a government's travel advisories mean, why they're
released and how to evaluate them.
About Travel Warnings
Governments issue warnings to let their citizens know about safety concerns that
may affect travel to a particular country or region. In the United States,
warnings are issued by the State Department.
Travel advisories are released for a variety of reasons, including terrorism,
natural disasters, political unrest, wars, health emergencies and outbreaks of
crime. Warnings may also cover areas of the world where a government does not
have the ability to respond to the problems of citizens traveling there -- for
example, if the government doesn't have an embassy in a particular country, or
if the functioning of its embassy is threatened by local violence.
Many governments make a distinction between long- and short-term travel
advisories. The U.S. State Department issues
travel warnings for "long-term, protracted conditions that make a country
dangerous or unstable," while
travel alerts cover temporary problems such as natural disasters or
A travel warning -- no matter how strongly worded -- cannot legally stop you
from traveling to a particular place. After reading a warning, it is up to you
to decide whether to heed or ignore the advice. While your government will try
to help you if you run into trouble abroad, you will always be traveling at your
Evaluating a Travel Warning
Not all travel warnings are created equal. When deciding how seriously to take a
particular travel advisory, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
1. Is the entire country
affected? In many cases, violence, unrest or natural disasters are confined
to a particular region while the rest of the country is still safe and welcoming
to tourists. (For example, Britain's recent travel alert for the U.S. cautioned
visitors against traveling in Gulf Coast states during hurricane season.)
While your safety always comes first, keep in mind that the fallout from an
isolated act of violence can affect an entire country's tourist industry -- and
have a disproportionate effect on the economy of a developing nation.
2. What's the danger? For travel advisories
dealing with violence or terrorism, pay attention to what kind of attacks are
taking place and who the targets are. Assaults that specifically pinpoint
foreign tourists should raise a bigger red flag than civil unrest among locals.
If violence generally happens away from primary tourist locations, there may be
less risk for visitors.
3. How long ago was the warning posted, and when
was it last updated? If you're looking at a warning that's more than a few
months old, it may be worth doing a little research to check the current
situation on the ground and see if there's been any improvement. The Web sites
of international newspapers are often a good source of accurate and up-to-date
4. Is the warning corroborated by other
governments? To get a fuller story on what's happening in a particular
country, check travel warnings from multiple sources (see our links below).
Critics have speculated that some advisories are unduly influenced by politics,
so checking an American advisory against a Canadian or an Australian one can
give you a fresh perspective -- or confirm that a threat is cause for a change
in your travel plans.
5. Is there a safety net? Find out whether your
home country has an embassy or consulate in the place you want to visit, and
make sure it's fully staffed and functioning. If the worst happens, you don't
want to be stranded in a foreign country without an embassy to help with
emergency evacuation or to get you in contact with family and friends at home.
6. Is travel insurance an option? Keep in mind
travel insurance may not cover you in all countries or circumstances.
TripInsuranceStore.com, most policies do not cover acts of war, riots or
civil disorder. Other exclusions may apply.
What if I Decide to Go Anyway?
Each year, many tourists choose to visit certain countries despite their
government's warnings. If you decide to do the same, consider taking the
following safety precautions.
1. Register yourself. Let your government know
when and where you will be traveling so that you can be reached in an emergency.
U.S. citizens can register themselves
here; other countries have similar programs.
2. Check in. Leave a copy of
your itinerary with trusted family or friends at home so that they know where
you're supposed to be and when. If possible, schedule a few stops at
Internet cafes while you're on the road -- that way you can make contact
with worried loved ones and keep up with any news stories that might affect your
3. Be prepared. Have a backup plan in case
something goes wrong. Find your home country's embassy or consulate in the area
you'll be visiting and carry its contact details with you at all times. But be
aware of what the embassy -- and your home government -- can and cannot do. (For
example, if you're injured, the State Department can help get you back to the
U.S., but you or your relatives will have to foot the bill.)
4. Protect yourself. If possible, purchase a
travel insurance policy (but be sure to see what is and isn't covered). Check
out our story on
Money Safety to help shield yourself against crime. Finally, do your
research; read up on the political or cultural situation of the area you're
visiting and know exactly what threats you might face.
Links and information concerning the Swine Flu
and Pandemic Alert & Response link:
Alert Levels Website:
Swine Flu Influenza Map:
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention H1N1 Swine Flu:
"Safety means there
is no limit to the amount of effort justified to prevent the recurrence of one
Travel Safety Tips
- Leave copies of your itinerary and passport or visa papers with people at
home, so you can be easily contacted.
- Make sure your insurance covers you while on vacation.
- Do not leave your belongings unattended or accepted packages from
- Avoid using elicited drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and carrying extra cash or
- Only deal with authorized agents when exchanging money.
- Familiarize yourself with laws and customs of countries you are visiting.
Remember, when in another country you are subject to their laws.
- Make sure you have a signed and valid passport! Be sure to fill out the
emergency information section of the document.
- Read travel warnings and public announcements for countries you plan to
visit. Available at:
- HAVE FUN!!!
Air Travel Safety Tips
with Children and Babies:
to Arriving at the Airport
Research your airlines' policy
for traveling with small children and infants.
A brief call to your airline can
go a LONG way towards making your airplane ride smooth and can eliminate any
Find Your Airline in our Air Travel Directory.
Always call ahead and let the
airline know you are traveling with small children. Most airlines will help you
to plan accordingly and offer special conveniences:
o Extra time to board and un-board the airplane
o Select special seating near the bathroom and not near the emergency
o Special meals for children
What else to ask your airline
o Approved child restraints
o Stroller acceptability and storage requirements
o In flight entertainment for children (Movies, games, etc)
o Is there a changing table in the airplanes lavatory?
o Dirty Diaper / Waste Disposal on the airplane
o Carryon bags permitted per person
o Does a diaper bag
count as a carryon?
o Restrictions on
FAA regulations strongly recommend children
under 40 lbs should be put in a child restraint system (car seat)
o Contact your airline to see which car seats are allowed on their
aircraft to ensure you bring the appropriate airplane seat restraint.
o FAA regulations state that children under 2 can sit on a parents lap
with a constraint
Plan to Arrive Extra Early to the Airport
o Allow for time to get through airport baggage check in and airport
security with children
Talk to your children about flying in an airplane. Read books, show them video
or take a family field trip to the nearest airport so they know what to expect
when they you arrive for your flight.
Dress the entire family comfortably, and if possible, in layers in case of
o If breast feeding, wear discreet nursing clothes in case a feeding
is required on the airplane or in the airport.
o Dress your child in very vibrant and distinctive clothing to avoid
losing sight of your child in a crowded airport.
Pack a change of clothing for you and for your child in your respective
carryon baggage in case of any spills.
Make sure your carry on / diaper bag has everything you would need in a worst
case scenario. Some suggestions are:
o Baby wipes
o Hand sanitizer
o Lightweight changing pad
o Hand towel
o Small bags for dirty diaper / waste disposal
o All childs medications
o Extra set of clothes
o Food/formula, etc
o Anything else you know your baby typically requires (i.e. nose
drops, snacks, favorite rattle, etc)
Consult your pediatrician before flying with a newborn or infant
o Avoid travel within 2 weeks of an ear infection (or other ear
o Make sure your children are up to date on all vaccinations (and
check to see if your destination requires additional vaccinations)
Print and review the FAA's
Childproof your Flight brochure (pdf). You should also bring this with you
to the airport as you may need to use this document to remind non US based
airlines of some US regulations.
Talk to your children about airport security (X-ray machines, searching their
backpacks, metal detectors)
Prior to boarding your flight, get all potty breaks out of the way while still
in the airport terminal.
Place some wipes and hand sanitizer into the airplane seat
pocket in front of you.
Keep them busy once you are seated on the airplane! Here are a
o Favorite Snacks
o Coloring & Activity Books
o Preplanned travel games (e.g. guess the fruit, counting games, etc)
o Reading Books
o Portable DVD player (with ear phones)
o Hand held games (with ear phones)
To help with their ears:
o For young children give them a bottle or give them a pacifier (the
sucking will help alleviate the pain)
o For older children have them chew bubble gum
Do your best to maintain your babys routine while in flight.
it will all be worth it! (Because
Do your best! Traveling anywhere with children is never easy, and traveling
with children on an airplane can be the ultimate test of your patients.
o Be prepared to lose things or leave them on the airplane
o Be prepared for exhaustion once your reach your final destination
o Be prepared to keep telling yourself that
American Academy of Pediatrics
Dedicated to the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and
The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for the safety of civil
Center for Disease Control and
U.S. government health recommendations for traveling. Provided by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Airline safety and security information from the passenger perspective as
well as other useful information for the traveling public and aviation
professionals, as well as information on recent fatal plane crashes.